Reno Sakura Shibas

Chris with puppies

During the 1980s I was involved with a student exchange program between the University of Nevada and Tottori University of Japan. Every summer, I took 30-50 Japanese college students into the Nevada deserts and to my ranch in the Sierra Nevada near Reno. Here they had a wide variety of experiences unavailable to them in Japan – shooting a gun, getting bucked off a horse, cooking over a campfire, and just sitting on a dune with a 100 mile view of no lights or towns or people.

About the same time I acquired a small red dog with a curled tail from an employee of mine who seemed to be spending too much time in jail to be a good dog owner. Kona was a great dog, dignified, fierce, stubborn, so when my students identified her as a Shiba "she speaks better Japanese than we do!", I was eager to get more. It was several years before the students were chaperoned by veterinary professors who were able to arrange my purchase of several show dogs from breeders in Ueda, Japan. As it turned out, I had never seen a Shiba when I imported my first two from Japan. The rescue dog which my Japanese students had identified as a Shiba bore only a distant physical resemblance to Chibi and Summer when they came to me in the mid 1980s, but I was so impressed by her and by those first two Shibas that I soon imported six more, and my life has never been the same since. The Japanese veterinarians who assisted me were apparently very anxious to repay me for the hospitality which I had shown them in the wilds of the American west, and made sure that I was sent the highest quality dogs available. Of those seven, only one was not of fine show quality, and she is still with me as a well loved pet.

In 1990 I was able to visit Japan myself, where I saw many dogs in both urban and rural settings. A highlight of my stay was a surprise visit to the high mountain shrine of Mitsumine. This 1200 year old park is entirely dedicated to Japanese dogs, whose ancient stone statues line long paths shaded by ancient redwoods. A wide variety of breeds and ages are represented in the beautiful, lichen covered statues, showing that an appreciation for conformation and breeding in dogs is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. Although Japan has a long rural heritage from which Shibas arose, most people, as in other industrialized countries, live in cities and suburbs, so it took my new imports some time to adjust to the freedoms and responsibilities of the wide open spaces. But adaptability is one of the strongest attributes of Shibas, and they are now firmly Americanized while retaining the original qualities of ancient Japanese dogs.

My original imports are long gone - it has been 35 years now - but their offspring are here, happy, healthy, and very active. We are proud of the positive impact that they [and we] have made on the breed, and of the genetics that we have shared with other breeders. They have demonstrated for countless friends, associates, and complete strangers in many countries that shibas are a smart, friendly, sociable, healthy and trainable breed.